ALBION chief executive Paul Barber has slammed Sussex Police’s actions both leading up to and after last month’s troubled clash with Crystal Palace.

Writing in today’s Argus, he said the club is extremely disappointed with police, particularly with regards to various communications put out by force bosses.

He said the inaccurate police statements which said club staff had found Palace fans with knives and knuckledusters had questioned the integrity of Albion and damaged Palace’s reputation.

He wrote: “To be clear, the original Sussex Police statement on fan-related disturbances was released without our approval - but we trusted it and took it at face value.

“However, when we learned of the inaccuracies contained within the statement, we drew them to the attention of Sussex Police immediately. We have since made very clear, and in the strongest possible terms, our extreme disappointment with various communications from Sussex Police leading up to, immediately after, and since Crystal Palace’s visit to the Amex.”

He said the club had previously had a good relationship with police enjoyed and hoped the force would learn from mistakes made.

The wide ranging letter was in response to a correspondence on our letters page last week by a Mr Guile, who called for Palace fans to be banned from the upcoming FA Cup clash on January 8.

Mr Barber responded by stating Palace’s allocation would be reduced from a potential 4,600 to 2,000 following advice from the Safety Advisory Group.

The chief executive said he would like to be in a position where he could fill the away section of the ground, adding: “We would much prefer to be in a position to grant Palace supporters their full allocation. It would make for a better atmosphere and, from a business point of view, it would likely lead to a bigger overall attendance, and increase revenue.

“Sadly, given the mindless behaviour of a minority outside the stadium during our last meeting, granting a full allocation of tickets simply isn’t possible.”

Given the tension between the clubs and last month’s disorder, there has been criticism at the evening scheduling of the FA Cup match.

Mr Barber explained rail engineering works and replacement services between London and Brighton across the third round weekend had forced the club’s hand.

He said: “It is common knowledge that our stadium travel management plan relies on a large number of public transport services, as part of planning permission for the stadium, but we have hosted matches in similar or worse situations.

“However, given the enhanced profile of this fixture, and the potential flash points, without rail services available to get supporters of both clubs in and out of the stadium, this would have further added to the challenges already being faced. Yes, with a full rail service, a Sunday morning or lunchtime kick-off would have been the preferred option, but without that option it is clear that the Monday night, with live TV coverage for those unable to secure a ticket, is the best option.”

Despite the disorder at last month’s match, which police bosses compared to a return to the dark days of football, Mr Barber defended the actions of club staff on the night.

The club and police came in for criticism after several pyrotechnics were let off in the away end of the stadium.

Mr Barber said stewards retrieved a large number of pyrotechnics from Palace supporters before the match, adding : “Some were still smuggled into the stadium and discharged. Unfortunately, these very loud pyrotechnics, many the size of a AAA battery, are extremely difficult to detect, even with a full body search and footwear removal, neither of which are feasible without extremely long delays for supporters.

“Similarly, when such a small pyrotechnic is dropped to the floor or rolled below a crowd of several thousand people, it is difficult for stewards to eject, or even identify, offenders while the game is in progress. Attempting to remove individuals can also often create additional disorder, well beyond the impact of a loud bang or a smoke cloud - as disconcerting and disturbing as these effects undoubtedly are for many of those in the stadium.”

The club was also strongly criticised by Palace supporters for stopping a group of fans getting into the away end after kick off.

The fans, some of whom had genuine tickets, were instead shepherded back to Falmer Station with the game still in progress.

He said the situation had been caused by what he described as a “relatively small” number of supporters who set off pyrotechnics to create a distraction and to “nullify sniffer dogs” while they stormed the turnstile and exit gate.

He added: “Despite the undoubted inconvenience for some genuine fans with tickets, including some late arriving Albion fans to the South end of the stadium, having personally reviewed the CCTV footage, I am entirely satisfied that the decision to close the stadium gates to prevent further potential disorder and to protect those already inside the stadium was entirely the correct call by our safety officer, in very difficult circumstances, entirely backed by the police.

“Indeed, it is just one example of a number of the careful and balanced judgements, referred to above, that our staff, and the various agencies that support our match day operations, must make.”

He concluded his letter by reiterated the disorder was caused by a “mindless few” intent on disorder.

Read Paul Barber's letter in full here.